This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.
I was looking for a low key 5K to kick off the 2014 season after not racing for nearly 6 months. This weekend worked out to be the perfect time to race, which will set me up well for the Deer Run 5K 3 weeks from now, the Run the Bay 5K 6 weeks from now and Walleye Run 9 weeks from now. Perfect rhythm to settle into.
It appeared I had two choices for a 5K. Drive all the way into Milwaukee for a lakefront 5K or stay close to home for what appeared to be a low key 5K just an easy 15-20 minute drive from home. Seeing as I was looking for low key, the one close to home seemed to be a perfect fit.
I arrived on race day about an hour before the race was scheduled to start and the registration tables were just getting set up. I picked up my packet, went back to my car and decided what I would wear for the race. With the temperature about 30 and a bit of a breeze, I wasn’t sure. After some consideration, I decided to go with the shorts and singlet with a light hat and a light pair of gloves. So I pinned the number on my singlet, then hit the restrooms before my warmup.
On the warmup, I got my first bad omen. I couldn’t really tell where the course was going. No signs, no chalk arrows on the roads/sidewalks. No sign at all where the course was to go. I figured they would have people at the corners or a lead bike, though, so signs wouldn’t be necessary and maybe they couldn’t get signs in the ground with how cold this winter has been.
At the start, I got my second bad omen. The start was on the sidewalk. A standard size sidewalk with room for about 2 people shoulder to shoulder. I quickly grabbed a spot at the front, then 4 kids crowded around me. At the start, a girl immediately stepped to the side from off the sidewalk right in front of me and I stepped on her foot with my very first step. I then had to come to a complete stop to avoid running her over. I then jumped over to the grass to pass the kids and set off on my way. Not a big deal, pretty typical for a 5K with kids in it, but I’m always concerned I’m going to hurt one of the kids when something like this happens.
By the time I got going, I was feeling good. I was running relaxed but I could feel my stride was quick, long and powerful. I was going to have a good run today. I could just feel it. Maybe I could even flirt with sub-17 on my first race of the year. I quickly built up a big lead as I weaved my way through a neighborhood.
Eventually, I made my way out to County Line Road, where a guy with a very quiet voice said something, I thought turn on Water Street. I remember from the course map that I turn off County Line at the second street. So, when I saw the street sign for the second street said Water, even though nobody was at the corner to tell me to turn, I turned. Then, someone wearing a yellow vest but still sitting in a car said I’m going the wrong way. She said I had to go back out to County Line and run up to the next road. So I took the orders of the individual who gave those instructions. What else do you do when a race official gives you instructions in middle of a race, even if you’re not sure they are right? Always follow the directions of race officials is rule number one.
So I ran out to the next road and took a right on Division. By this point, I was already over a mile into the race. I figured I had to be turning soon. Nobody was around, though, and something didn’t seem right. Eventually, I had run over a mile on Division. I knew I had to be around 2.5 miles in and I was at least 2 miles by the most direct route from the start/finish area. I stopped on the side of the road, said a few choice words and jogged back in thinking all kinds of nasty things.
When I got back to the start/finish area, I told the first race official I saw what happened. We confirmed that the person who told me to go the wrong was was in fact a course marshal and she was wrong to tell me to go back to County Line. He said he wanted me to talk to the race director and I shouldn’t leave until I did. So I waited. Finally, I saw the race director but I didn’t want to approach her and be that guy who complains about things. I mingled around a bit, making sure she could see me. Maybe she hadn’t heard yet what had happened, maybe she had too much going on at the time, maybe she didn’t know how to approach me about this. I don’t know. Finally, tables were being broken down and I just decided to get the heck out.